A Morningside-based chef’s passion and love for fresh and exciting food has paid off after he was recently appointed as The Big Easy restaurant’s Chef De Cuisine.
Chef Noel Kudzanayi Kanyemba (34) is excited with the appointment and aims to give it his best shot.
His cooking journey started at the age of 11 when he joined his mother in the kitchen and helping out where needed.
“Even though I was the only boy in the family I took responsibility early on and would prepare the evening meal when I got home from school everyday because my mother often worked late. I did most of the cooking and have always loved being in the kitchen,” said the eager Kanyemba.
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Talking about how his professional cooking journey started, the talented chef started off in Zimbabwe working for a supermarket retailer, OK Zimbabwe Limited as a cook in their take-away.
“I had the privilege to be able to travel to different countries in Southern Africa as a youth so I adapted some dishes from the places I visited. This earned me recognition with the management who moved me to running the take-away. I joined Hilton Durban in the main kitchen in February 2012, having recently graduated from an internal three-year training course,” he said.
Kanyemba believes that his passion led him to where his heart is.
“When I relocated to South Africa in 2009, I joined a food chain frying wings which was not really where I wanted to be. Like the saying goes ‘Your passion will always lead you to where your heart is.’ In October 2010, I got a job as a waiter at a local restaurant in Morningside, Freedom Café. The kitchen was short staffed that day and they needed a helping hand so I was sent to the kitchen to help out. I caught the attention of the chef there who then hired me as a commis chef under his tutelage. I worked with various other chefs during my tenure there,” he said.
When he joined Hilton Durban in the main kitchen in February 2012, he was selected as a candidate for the HTA course by management while still working in the main hotel.
When The Big Easy Durban opened its doors in October 2015, he was transferred from the main kitchen and joined the initial team in the planning and preparation stages.
He worked at the Big Easy as a Chef De Partie. He then moved to Seychelles to another Hilton property as a Jnr Sous Chef in January 2017.
“In November, I was appointed Sous Chef of The Big Easy and now I have been appointed the Chef De Cuisine,” said the proud head chef.
He said his favourite dish to cook is a good pasta dish and his favourite dish is the banana and pear pudding which is currently on The Big Easy dessert menu.
Talking about The Big Easy menu, the seasoned chef said, “We showcase an array of South African dishes with an international flare and our use of fresh in season produce helps us rotate and change our menu seasonally, keeping us abreast with the rest of the world.”
He added that what sets his meals apart from others is that they are fresh and exciting. His advice to aspiring chefs is to not take short-cuts.
“Recipes and methods are there to be followed,” he said.
He also advises other chefs to stay focused. “It’s all about staying focused on the end goal which is to please guests and knowing you must send the best food out,” he added.
When asked which famous or prominent person he would like to prepare a meal for, Kanyemba said he would take British celebrity chef, Heston Blumenthal, on a food frenzy across the Karoo.
When he is not cooking up a storm in the kitchen, Kanyemba loves being at home and catching up on sports.
Speaking about a career as a chef, he said it is an exciting job that lets you express yourself through your cooking.
“It lets you explore and be creative. Being a chef is fulfilling at the end of the day. You see and hear guests coming to say thank you and it gives you an awesome feeling,” he said.
However, he did point out some disadvantages which are the long hours as the job is demanding emotionally, physically and mentally, but he says, “I love what I do and wouldn’t change anything about it.”
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